It is that feeling you get when something so amazing happens that you can't believe it ever happened at all.
The weekend of the Malaysia Grand Prix was my first foray into the world of Formula One journalism. Writing for Richard's F1, I spent four days in the media centre, walking the paddock, scratching out articles, attending press conferences, laughing (loudly and often) and generally being in awe: in awe of the calibre and influence of the journalists in the room, in awe of the experience, in awe of the history.
Honestly, being able to speak to and joke with people whose work I have read and respected for a long time was surreal; being able to discuss the very issues that were pertinent to the sport in real time was ridiculous! How I have been so fortunate (Alhamdulilah) to stumble into this world, I can only wonder. Alhamdulilah, and a big shout out to Richard Bailey whose has been a staunch supporter, mentor and sponsor in this space.
It's the small things that create the strongest memories really.
The reporters from all around the world, writing and talking in different languages;
The nicknames given to the different drivers by the journos;
Learning about the various cliques - who hangs out with who, who do you ask for this, where to go for that;
Richard and I walking up and down the paddock with the aim of meeting people and scoring interviews (Richard loving the drivers and my interests lying with learning more from the technical directors, engineers and principals). Walking up and down the paddock sounds fine, until you experience Malaysia stifling 90+ % humidity and mid-30 temperatures...
Sharing in the junk food (sugar always seems to help the writing process, no matter how seasoned a professional);
The rush after an announcement to figure out what this means and write it up;
The build of up excitement at the start of the race: I must say, probably the best group of people to watch and F1 race with because literally, everyone is glued to the screen and taking notes. Once the race started and the *gasps* and murmurs died down (the starts are always great to watch), the room was as serious as it had ever been all week. Of course, this is the business end of the weekend. This is what we are all here for...
Terrible, terrible jokes;
Being the new kid on the block. Everything is fun and exciting and there are hundreds of new people to meet! Making new friends :)
Learning amazing history about the sport from people that were actually there;
Making Niki Lauda smile (yay!);
Technical conversations with guys who actually write the regulation and design(ed) the cars;
Realising that these are the people who tell the world about Formula One, and they are just as cool and interesting as their writing is.
I still can't believe it (have I said that before yet?). What surprised me was that although it is a place where you have to earn your stripes like any other, by and large people were quite friendly. If you showed your keen interest, people were willing to help. I guess that's like anywhere really: you only really get out as much as you put in.
It is a bit of a drug though; I am not sure how I would fare attending an F1 in the near future and sitting in the grandstands.
I'd want to know what the stewards are saying, what the word on the street is regarding the latest controversial topic, what new distraction Bernie has concocted, what new challenges the engineers are facing. So who knows.
I'm but no means formally qualified, but if there is one thing I like doing, it is asking questions. It would seem that some of the best people at this job are the ones who know the right question to ask...
(Oh, and being an engineer doesn't go down too badly either. It's an engineer's playground!)
Hopefully, inshallah, I will get the opportunity to do this again in the future.
In the meantime, memories will have to do...